Saturday, November 3, 2012

We Should Count

All over the nation, citizens are getting ready to vote, have already voted, or are watching reality TV. The only thing that unites us is our disgust at the current Congress, but we are allowed to vote for only our own familiar wretched portion of it, and so the entire despised cast will be reinstalled more or less intact. Flyers paper the country featuring unflattering photos of politicians touched up in blood red and variously described as job- or baby-killers, or champions of vulture capitalism and the progeny of rapists.

Some citizens will be targeted by robo-phone calls informing them that we're voting alphabetically this year and if their names end in a "z" their votes will not be counted. Others will be told the election is in December, or that they will be turned away at the polls without an affidavit signed by both their mistresses and their wives. A Democratic congressman will be welded to his seat until dead by virtue of his newly-drawn district with tentacles wrapped around every reliable vote for fifty stringy miles. A Republican will too, and also buy a voting-machine company. The machines may or may not have a paper trail, but any mysterious vote-flipping or vote-cancelling glitch inserted into them will be undetectable. It is not a sure thing that the majority of Americans will make the best choice, but it is an even dicier proposition that the choice they actually make will be reflected in the results. Jimmy Carter is nowhere in sight. Something about this system smells pretty bad.

But here in Oregon, democracy smells like bacon.

Fourteen years ago, when it was first proposed that we conduct our elections entirely by mail ballot, I was appalled. I had always found it bracing to stride through the slanting rain to the church basement, sign my name for the smiling matron manning the "A through M" line, and snick the curtain shut in my booth. It was a sacrament. Vote-By-Mail would be like taking communion with a scratch 'n' sniff card. But the proposal passed handily, and in the next election, my ballot arrived in the mail with the Voter's Pamphlet.

And I was won over. I opened my ballot and spread it out on the kitchen counter. I knew who I was voting for in the major races. But there were problems. There was always a gaggle of judges to pass judgment on, people I'd never heard of. One boasts a commitment to fairness and integrity. His opponent is uniquely qualified by her intelligence, fair-mindedness and integrity.

Or, elsewhere, a "yes" vote on a ballot measure "reverses the existing law prohibiting the enforcement of the ban on mandatory coherence standards." Without a pencil, a protractor, and a piece of string, I can't tell if I'd be sending money to Darfur or clubbing baby seals.

Our ballots lounge on the kitchen counter as bacon fries in the pan, and bit by bit, as the details are clarified on public radio or by conversations with trusted friends, it gets filled in. We mail it off or drop it at the polls. If we do it early, political phone calls and mailings quit.

But, some worry, what about voter fraud? Doesn't this method of voting make that more likely? Just like everywhere else, dead people show up on the voter rolls, Dick Cheney inexplicably not among them, but they don't vote very hard. And voter impersonation in Oregon occurs between .0009% and .00004% of the time, just like everywhere else. In fact, it only works out to one dude every ten years out in Harney County, and they'd totally nail his ass if it wasn't always during bow-hunting season.

I am confident my vote will count in Oregon. Not for president, of course--that's up to Ohioans, and it's a whole different problem. And this year, in my state, bless its ferny little heart, I get to vote in favor of a ballot measure that amends the constitution by making "grammatical and spelling changes." Next year: jail time for apostrophe abuse.

For the rest of you, protect your vote. Demand hand-counting of ballots. It's important. Because depending on the results of Tuesday's election, we will have a planet uninhabitable in either fifty years, or a hundred.

70 comments:

  1. Thanks for popping by my blog, Murr. DH and I opted for postal voting years ago, but it's still just a matter of putting a cross by one single name. How you cope with the raft of elections and measures without winding up bald or insane, I'll never know.

    PS I will be staying up all night again on Tuesday again to watch your election results. It matters to us across the pond too.

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    1. Thank you for assuming I haven't ended up bald or insane.

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  2. Now...here's a funny thing. A damn funny thing, some might say.
    In this country, Australia (that's the very big island, slightly south-east of Indonesia), they have what is known as "the race that stops the nation."
    It's just about the same as the race that you 'mericans have. A few horses, all well-trained and all, by virtue of that training, pretty darned expensive beasts.On Tuesday, thousands of people will skive off work, get togged-up in swanky clothes, drink gallons of booze (good and otherwise) and, if they can't make it to the track/counting room, will leap about and scream at wide-screen TVs.
    Yep! Our two countries really do have a lot in common.

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    1. I would like to know if I can skive off retirement and leap about? It sounds like a lot of fun.

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    2. Sounds like you would also have to get togged up, Murr.

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    3. This is starting to sound complicated.

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    4. Yes. Better to return a simple vote than take core samples of a race track with your high heels.

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    5. You need to wear a hat, or at least a fascinator to attend the races.

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  3. I have twice sought and twice been elected to one of those positions way down in the ballot inhabited by people nobody ever heard of... The Soil & Water Conservation District. Here in Baja Georgia it doesn't take much to run for this office, just a head full of juice and $25, but it's amazing to see how quickly those elected to this seem to glaze over in dreams of political grandeur. All it takes is one letter addressed to "The Honorable Mr." and suddenly their stature as humans changes. Politics has become nothing more than show-biz in this country and that's why, bottom line, they are so easily controlled by Wall St.

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    1. I was just looking at all our Soil and Water Conservation District applicants and a small raft of them was endorsed by the one guy that's already in there. Gave me pause. Although, what mischief can Soil & Water guys collaborate on?

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    2. I don't know...$25 seems pretty cheap to gain the title of "Honorable." Sign me up.

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  4. Well, seven counties in Florida have already found multiple cases of voter registration fraud on GOP applications. One voter sector, a black one, has had to have its early voting numbers reduced by 1,000 because of a computer glitch...no wait...some woman added wrong and transposed numbers. Once again Scalia may select our president and the rest of us lose the privilege so many died for.

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    1. Last night, it was reported that an election worker here went through all the ballots that were not marked for certain offices and filled them in Republican. She's in a boatload of trouble.

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  5. I would vote for clubbing seals. They need an auto club for fixing flats and roadside assistance like aLL the other animals that drive. And golf clubs too. And dinner clubs. I am sure I need more baby seals in my life. There were times this week I would have gladly traded my spouse for a seal, and verse vice-ah. Yawn, but what I need most is coffee. Where is coffee my now want baby boo hoo, oh, I should be veRy stiLL right now, as the dog is coming to request me to get outta bed, he would be the closest thing to a seal, I should go check his water bowl now. Vote early, vote often!

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  6. Great post Murr, and very timely too! As well as lauh-out-loud funny as usual.

    Good luck figuring out if your money is going to Darfur or seal-clubbing! (I wonder, do seal go to special club and listen to heavy metal or electronic music?)

    I missed the chance to vote this year... I hadn't realised I had to request to vote in the mail in advance... for the past 4 years I've been receiving ballots in the mail for all kinds of elections in Florida (where I'm registered) and all of the sudden this year none! I wish someone had told me I'd have to re-register or something! :o(

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    1. AARRRRGGGH! And you're a Florida voter? I will personally remind you next time! And I'd look into that. Sounds like you might have been purged. Get back to us, will you?

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    2. Yup, I know! My dad registered himself, my sisters and I to vote in Florida after the Bush debacle there. Out of all of our "previous US addresses" we figured that's where we could do the most good. Unfortunately for some reason we didn't get anything other than our voter registration cards in the mail this time around! No ballots, or any kind of letter informing us that we needed to request them to vote by mail... after years of them just coming in automatically! VERY upset about it! But by the time we looked into it was too late... :o(

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  7. We vote by mail here in Washington state, too, Murr. It is a very civilized way to do it, and I just don't understand why the entire country doesn't go this way. I didn't like it at first, either, because I liked getting up before work and being the first or second in line at the polls; it was a matter of honor. I read that article you put on Facebook about the GOP and voting machines and immediately felt sick. I haven't been able to forget it.

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    1. I know. Maybe it isn't true. And if it is true, somebody needs to go to jail for life, and maybe be set on fire first.

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    2. DJan and Murr, read this and feel heartened: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/features/npr.php?id=164205676 Here's a part of it:

      Hamilton is one of only two Ohio counties that use machines from Hart. Aside from one electronic machine in each polling place for disabled voters, the county uses the Hart eScan machine. It's a paper-based system. People vote on paper ballots and then those ballots are fed into a scanner that tabulates the votes; that way, there's a paper backup that can be counted by hand.

      The county bought these machines back in 2005, long before H.I.G. ever invested in Hart InterCivic. And Krisel says Hart isn't involved in the election in any way.

      "We do all of our own pretesting on [the machines], maintenance diagnostics on it, and we do all of our tabulation, vote tabulation, ballot preparation," she says. "All of that is done by bipartisan teams here in Hamilton County."

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    3. Oh good! Now we only have to worry about those five-hour voting lines in Florida. Honestly, somebody in charge needs to go to jail.

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  8. Evidently someone running for some office says that vote by mail isn't as secure as the madness of the poling place. Well, if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. And if you're a cheater, then everything can be cheated on. I'd much rather have a ballot that smells like bacon, that I can mull over and consider at leisure, in the comfort of my own recliner in front of Wheel of Fortune.

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    1. Yeah, first thing they do is check to see your signature matches what's on the record, and then they count them. And we use a pencil. Pretty low tech. I feel good about it.

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  9. Really? Mailing it in early would stop my phone from ringing all day with those annoying recordings? I'll have to remember that for next time!

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    1. YES! It turns off the spigot. Well, that's what I hear--like everything else, it gets done at the last minute here, and we walk it to the ballot box. You know, I loved it as a mailman, too. I felt all civic and everything. We'd separate out the ballots we picked up the day before and day of the election and drop them off at ballot drop-off sites ourselves. We WANTED it to work.

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    2. I love the idea of the mailman helping people get their vote counted!

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    3. Mailmen are, in the deepest part of their boozy, disheveled hearts, good people. Except for some of them.

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    4. Yes, turning your ballot in early in Oregon stops all those irritating phone calls of people who want you to "Vote, Dammit!!"
      Like you, I usually turn mine in at a collection point on Nov 6 (it makes me feel good to do it that way), but this year, I slammed that ballot back at them the next day. Now I only get "Change Your Visa Rate" calls.

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    5. I am informed daily that there is nothing wrong with my credit card account, but

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  10. "I get to vote in favor of a ballot measure that amends the constitution by making "grammatical and spelling changes." Next year: jail time for apostrophe abuse"

    Damn. I will probably end up in jail. For sure.

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  11. I love Ohio's "no-fault" absentee voting. When I get to the issues and low-level candidates, I can sit in the comfort of my living room and research it all online before deciding. Even better, it's a paper ballot, which is a good thing since our voting machines can't always be trusted. It was just revealed today that some precincts in Cleveland and Columbus (which, by strange coincidence, are the biggest blue spots in what is otherwise a sea of red) have had some "experimental software patches" installed, by order of the (Republican, natch) Secretary of State. Of course, we here in the Buckeye State are no strangers to hinky elections, having dealt with them in 2004 and 2010. (And probably 2008, although thankfully the President's lead was big enough then that they couldn't steal it without being detected.) It may well come down to the NotSoSupreme Court again, in which case we will be well and truly screwed.

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    1. Man, I haven't seen "hinky" for a while. I'm going to try to work that into my conversations this week. Basically what we have is no-fault absentee balloting for everybody.

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  12. Sheesh! The horse race in Melbourne looks better than ever!

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  13. I was chuckling...until the last sentence. Ouch.

    I read a comment by a conservative person on a blog post about climate change that stuck with me. She said the problem with liberals was they just didn't understand how much it was going to cost to tackle climate change....How much it was going to devastate families to have to pay those kind of costs. Sadly, I don't think her opinion is all that uncommon.

    How can you reason with thinking like that?

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  14. Probably no point to reasoning with them. But the fact is that for those who promote this charge--that liberals do not care about the poor--it is a cunning and strategic move meant only to secure their own wealth. The truth is that we have no choice but to live sustainably or die horribly. Those who say the costs of looking ahead and facing reality are too great are underestimating the costs of failing to do so. They want to get theirs now, and to hell with everyone else.

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  15. I applaud every word and comma in this post and particularly love your last comment before mine.

    You are SO good!

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  16. Let me just say, here and now, that you are my heroine. (The "e" needs to stay there, btw.)

    We have a flawed system that is occasionally described as a "representative democracy" (and occasionally as a "world-ending clusterfuck," but that's neither here nor there...)

    But every vote counts, even when it doesn't. If 600 democrats in Florida in 2000 hadn't said "fuck it, I've got better things to do," the Supreme Court might not have handed the reins to Bush, leading us to where we are now.

    The system has flaws. But we need to fix them, not sit back and say "Oh, look! 'Jersey Shore' is on, post-Hurricane Sandy!"

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  17. I hate to mention it, but while I was watching hurricane coverage I wondered if the show would disappear along with the shore. Or just become the Trenton Twats.

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  18. "I know. Maybe it isn't true. And if it is true, somebody needs to go to jail for life, and maybe be set on fire first."

    Then Democracy truly would smell like bacon!

    For what it's worth, I experienced no lines at all voting in Florida yesterday.

    Great post, BTW.

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  19. We also get to vote by mail in our little county. While voter fraud is mathematically negligible, I don't trust the counters that have to take off their shoes to do their job. It just smells wrong.

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    1. Oh dear, it does. You know, I still miss my little precinct matrons in the church basement, and I like to think they're hard at work counting away.

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  20. Great post. It's Florida that terrifies me -- 5 hour lines for voting? Seriously? Here in Seattle there's a notice on the election department website saying,
    "King County GOP is collecting ballots at multiple van drop locations in King County. King County Elections strongly discourages giving possession or responsibility of your ballot to anyone other than USPS or official King County Elections drop locations."
    Sheesh, those guys will stop at nothing.
    But what's really on my mind, Murr, is this, if it's not too personal: Where do you stand on grammatical and spelling changes?

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    1. Really. Just flat-out cheating. Man oh man.

      Hey, that's my ballot up there, so you can see my "yes!" I am a big fan of grammar and spelling who nonetheless does not like to correct people unless they're asking for it by (a) asking for it or (b) being pompous, arrogant dicks.

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  21. Signing up for your blog may be the best thing I have ever done. That, however, may also be very faint praise. I love you.

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    1. Holey moley, George! I'm loving you right back.

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  22. Voting by mail sounds like a good system. I try to be an informed voter, but at the polls I always discover a few offices and measures that I didn't know about. Great post, as usual.

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    1. Also, it's good for the good ol' post office.

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  23. It's much easier to vote by mail. Early. Then get on with the other things of life without the phone calls.

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    1. Yeah--I can't imagine any kind of surprise that would change my vote for president.

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  24. I love voting by mail. And I love the voter pamphlets too. (I was all for correcting spelling and grammar! I hope it comes up again because it was super fun to get behind that one.)

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    1. I wish we could have seen a bunch of the "opposed" faction in the Voter's Pamphlet!

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  25. I have to say that I voted for one guy in 08, but now...I don't like the the guy I voted for in 08, seeing as I'm from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. Since my state is safely blue, I will be voting for the person whose beliefs align with mine. I wish it was for the same person I voted for in '08, but it is not to be.

    But, anyway, and no matter what...get out and vote!

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    1. No matter what! Sure hope you're talking Green Party though. Next time we talk, we'll see what we can do about breaking that two-party lock.

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  26. The rest of the world awaits. Trying so hard not to worry.
    XO
    WWW

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    1. Everyone's worried. Both sides. One side is worried mistakenly.

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  27. Mail-in voting - what a good idea. We Canadians will also be keeping a keen eye on Tuesday's results.

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    1. It really works. How are you guys doing getting rid of Harper?

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    2. Haha! Not so well, actually ...

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  28. Our little town always hand counts its votes. I'm holding my breath, turning bluer by the moment...

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  29. I came back to read the comments, and noticed all of a sudden that Pootie has more outfits than I do. I'm crushed :)

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    1. Ohhh. He has WAY more outfits than you've seen.

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  30. I have forwarded this post to several of my Australian friends who still ask me (even though I lost my US citizenship in 1975 by choosing Ozland over Yankeeland) to please explain why so many Americans don't vote. It's a constant mystery to folk here in Oz, where anyone can vote by mail, or pop in to an early-voting poll during the 2 weeks prior to Election Day, or vote on Election Day itself, which is always a Saturday so work commitments and traffic aren't such nuisances. Any waiting line longer than 15 minutes is rare, and someone will bring a portable pooling booth out to your car if you're disabled. Oh yes, voting is also compulsory here, but Oz citizens don't seem to see that as a human rights violation!

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    1. Oh man, it doesn't matter how beneficial or salutary a thing is, or how much less it will cost--if an American even senses that something might be required of him, it is a personal affront and a threat to liberty. We're doomed.

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